Sunday, May 31, 2009

Morbid Thoughts on Death

I have spent the better part of today on a “goldfish death watch.” I volunteered to adopt the goldfish that had been in Ella’s class when school ended for the summer. We have had them for two weeks and one is not long for this world. I can’t tell if it is Orange or Carrot who is going to be dead within the next few hours since they are impossible to tell apart. The poor fish is lethargically floating along the bottom of the bowl while the other races around like a maniac. When I was a kid and had fish, they would die overnight. A lot of times, I found them on the floor because they had jumped out of the bowl. I would take a spatula, pry them off the floor, walk to the toilet and send them packing. I’ve been out of sorts all day because I don’t know what the proper protocol is for a fish that is sure to die, but isn’t dead yet.

I probably wouldn’t be so sad if it weren’t for the fact that both of our dogs are starting to have some worrisome medical problems. Bosco had a malignant tumor removed from the top of his head a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, the surgeon didn’t remove the entire tumor when he operated. To get it all would involve removing his entire ear. At this point, the vet said that the tumor is a slow-growing one, so it may be awhile before we have to do something drastic like remove his ear. He also mentioned that if it gets worse that we should consider radiation therapy.

While the tumor stuff was happening with Bosco, Linus started to slightly drag his back legs. I mentioned it to the vet when I took him on his wellness visit. Of course, Linus didn’t drag his legs that day, so the vet wasn’t too concerned at the time and said that Linus was in excellent health for a 10-year-old Boxer. Most Boxers don’t live past 10, so every day one lives past that is a great thing. We have watched Linus get a little worse each day. Last week, he fell over while he was in the middle of doing in business in the backyard. I called the vet and got him in that afternoon. This time, the vet could see that Linus was in distress. He kept him overnight to do some tests. The diagnosis is that he has a herniated disc. Initially, I didn’t think that sounded so bad. I thought there might be a pill. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

The vet put Linus on an intravenous steroid and sent him home. Even though I kept him sedentary, he was worse than when I had taken him to the vet. At this point, the vet said that the only thing that will cure Linus is surgery. The cost of the surgery would be close to $3000. Corey and I talked about it and we have decided that we will not have it done. It would be different if he was young. However, there is no guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again. So what this means is that Linus is eventually going to lose mobility in the back of his legs. We don’t know how long that will be, but it is eminent. I asked the vet if Linus was in pain right now. He said it is difficult to tell because Boxers are stoic and have such a high pain tolerance, that it may be quite awhile before it becomes evident that he is in pain. For now, he is having a lot of trouble on our wood floors, and occasionally doing the splits. He is confused and it upsets him. I try to calm him down while I pick him up to get his legs upright again. I am hoping that purchasing some runners to put down in the hallways will help him out for the time being. However, my heart is broken.

I know that it is not practical to spend this kind of money on two dogs who are entering their twilight years. However, I feel as though I am turning my back on them. These two dogs have brought me so much happiness and comfort, that it doesn’t seem right that I am not doing everything I can to keep them whole. It was so much easier to decide what to do when our first dog was sick. McBain had developed seizures suddenly when he turned four. We eventually found out that he had an inoperable brain tumor. Corey and I had always felt strongly about not letting a dog suffer, so we had him put to sleep on December 20, 2000. Every December 20, I cry like a baby because I miss him so. We still have his ashes because I have been too afraid to scatter them for fear that we will move again. It’s a good thing, since we have moved about 6 times since he died. But at the end of the day, I know we did the right thing because we knew he was suffering. Had there been a chance that surgery would have helped, we would have done it in a heartbeat. He was young. Young.

So now, I am crying over the goldfish bowl, thinking that I have brought these poor fish into this home of certain death. I literally don’t know what to do with the fish. It is sort of lying on the sea glass and it’s clear that he’s having trouble breathing. If I flush him now, I’m a murderer, right? Frankly, I am already feeling like one where my dogs are concerned. It is a horrible, horrible feeling.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Bride Wore Aubergine; the Groom Wore a Kilt and a Grin

Corey and I had the pleasure of spending last weekend in Pittsburgh attending the wedding of our friend Erin and her now-husband Brian. My girls call Erin, "Fairy Godmother Erin," and for good reason. Erin is an actress, a director, a teacher, and self-proclaimed, "High Priestess of Boogie." Fairy Godmother Erin is like no other woman I have ever known.

Every friend we made in Pittsburgh was because of our friend Angel from college. Angel's friends welcomed us with open arms when we moved to Pittsburgh back in 1996. I remember being instantly intimidated by all of them. They were all REALLY smart. And interesting. And well-read. And opinionated. They also knew so much about, well, everything I didn't. I remember telling Corey after meeting them all for the first time, "There is NO WAY we are going to fit in with them. I couldn't POSSIBLY talk to them about ANYTHING!"

But I was so glad to be wrong. This group of friends also turned out to be some of the kindest, funniest and entertaining people I know. We have vacationed with them countless times over the years, eaten with them no less than 1000 times, played a lot of poker, watched some of them get married, shared in their joy when they have had babies, shared in their sadness when they have lost their parents, siblings, children and pets. And Erin is one of these friends. After showing the girls the photos of the wedding, Ella decided that Fairy Godmother Erin's husband should be named, "Prince Brian." I am sure he'll be thrilled.

When Erin and Brian announced their engagement, Corey and I knew it would not a traditional Irish Catholic wedding. It was waaaay better than that.

Bagpipe player at the entrance.

Angel is in the black and white dress with her daughter! Red Pen Mama is there with the flowered dress!

One of the kids' tables at the reception. The other kids' table was the "Hogwart" table. The Legoland table was a hit. Some of the kids made a sign that said, "Just Hitched" out of legos.

Brian and Erin's dance...

Erin and Brian singing, "Tupelo Honey" to each other while all of us held hands in a huge circle around them.***

Corey was all dignified and serious until...

...Stevo gave Corey and JJ shots of Maker's Mark. Then things started to go downhill...

Congrats to the Happy Couple!

*** To the three readers of my blog who were at the wedding, you may be thinking, "Huh, those pictures look like they could be mine." You're right. In addition to you all being smarter than I am, you also have better cameras (or better photographic abilities) than I do. Thanks to Stevo, Dawn and Erin.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I Love This Man

He knows I just took my pill, but he asks if I have taken it anyway. He watches me look out the window and sees my eyes widen when I spot that our plane is a tiny prop plane.

"It will be OK, Honey. Think of it as, 'easy on, easy off.'"

We have been through this so many times before. He could tell me that I have been on well over 150 flights (most without him) and that I should be sucking it up already. But he doesn't. He should go up to the gate agent and request a seat far away from me, but he doesn't. Instead, he strokes my leg and tells me that we will be home soon and that it will all be fine.

I want to be brave, really I do. I never used to fear flying--I LOVED it. That all changed Christmas Week, 1994. I was flying from Baltimore to St. Louis to attend the funeral of my cousin, who had just taken his life. I was on a Southwest flight. It was a strange plane because I was in the front row, but a row of seats faced me, like a bus. When we landed, we landed so violently that my seat belt and the seat belt of the woman next to me broke and we slammed into the people who were facing us. I ended up hurting a tiny child. I will never get the sight of her bleeding from her head out of my mind's eye. A couple of days later, when I was preparing to go back to Baltimore, I had a panic attack and didn't want to get on the plane. A fear was born.

I have done a lot to get rid of this stupid fear of mine. I took two jobs in the past that required me to travel extensively, thinking that would force me to get over my fear. That theory was shot down in flames. I currently take pills, but they might as well be a placebo as they don't really do much. I manage to keep it together when I fly alone. I don't cry, I don't make a scene. But when we fly together, I fall apart (quietly, of course, so that I don't bother the other passengers. I mean, why be labelled a freak, afterall?!)

I think he just knows that it is his job to keep me from having a nervous breakdown when dealing with the only thing I fear. Actually, flying is not truly my only fear. I have been pretty successful in not encountering many clowns in our nearly 18 years together. And I typically stay out of oceans. Unfortunately, airplanes are a necessary evil since we are so far from anywhere we want to go and anyone we want to see.

He always reaches for my hand as we prepare to take off. He holds my hand until I feel comfortable enough to let go. Occasionally, I let go immediately. Usually, I will grip his strong hand with my sweaty one for a much longer time, depending on turbulence. One time, he claimed that I almost broke his hand, but he waited until the next day to tell me.

When the turbulence is so bad and he sees my lip quivering, he assures me that everything is totally fine and that the pilot is getting above the turbulence. Then the plane levels off and all is well. There have been a few flights that were so frightening for me that he never got up to go to the bathroom. That is HUGE since he has a bladder the size of a mouse. I am sure he was tortured, but he never complained.

He is not perfect. No spouse is. I often joke that his inability to react in emergency situations will probably cause my death. If I ever have a stroke or a heart attack, I will be screwed, because he will probably be looking at me and trying to decide if I am being overly dramatic or not. But the one thing that does make him perfect is what he does when we fly together. And that is one of the many reasons why I love him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hausfrau Update

Things have been quite nuts around here. The perpetual rains of the past few weeks have caused the girls' baseball and soccer games to be cancelled numerous times. Their seasons are supposed to end at the end of the month, but it isn't looking good for Ella. Her team will outgrow their uniforms before their season ends. Genna's soccer team actually gave up this afternoon and gave out the team photos and trophies in the pouring rain because the last scheduled game was cancelled.

When it isn't raining, we are running around doing yard work and gardening. I probably would have had a much more productive garden had I planted rice. My tomatoes, peppers, watermelon and broccoli are just not thriving.

School will be over for Ella this Thursday. It is shocking to me that just a few months ago, I was crying over sending her off to kindergarten. Now, she will be going into first grade in August. I have changed my work schedule a bit and will have both girls home with me on Tuesdays and Fridays this summer. Ella will go to a day camp and Genna will continue to go to daycare. I'll still work the same number of hours--they just won't be stretched out over as many days.

Corey and I were in New York two weekends ago. Corey had a meeting there, and suggested that I join him the weekend before to celebrate his 40th birthday. He was blissfully unaware that in the weeks prior to our trip, I planned for our good friends, Amy and Michael, to join us in the city for a day. I also planned a surprise birthday dinner! My friend Mark helped me plan where to go. It only makes sense since it is his job to REALLY know the restaurants in New York. We had the dinner at Craftbar . Corey was in shock when he saw Mark at the bar, because he thought that only Amy and Michael were joining us for dinner. Then he saw our friends Lisa and Albert from New Jersey walk in. Then our friend Lori from Bethlehem came in as well. After calling me a "Lying sack of shit" (NICE!) he did later admit that it was his best birthday ever.

This weekend, we are heading to Pittsburgh for a wedding. Our dear friend Erin is getting married! We are so excited to be coming for so many reasons. First and foremost, ERIN! Secondly, we are going to see our Pittsburgh friends, which should be nothing short of awesome. We still miss Pittsburgh and probably always will.

When we return from Pittsburgh, I have to start getting serious about planning for the Hopkins Family Odyssey. What's that you ask? Why I'll be glad to tell you. A couple of months ago, I got it in my head that it would be a great idea to take the girls on a three-week road trip before schools starts on August 10 (not sure that I've told my boss yet, hmmmm). At any rate, we will head north to Indiana to visit my mom, the go to Michigan to see my sister before she gives birth, then I will go into Canada to visit my friend Katy for a few days. After that, we will go to Maine for several days to visit our friends. At that point, Corey plans to fly to Maine and drive with me the rest of the way home. We will make stops in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and then home.

After telling lots of people of my grand plan, it started to sound like a lot of driving. For me. Not quite sure why I didn't really pick up on that initially. At any rate, the only real planning I need to do (aside from getting the time off from work) is to get passports for the girls. That will involve Corey coming with me in person to apply for them since both parents have to do it together. And now because I have dragged my ass to get it done, I am praying I get the passports in time. Corey is trying to convince me to cut the trip short and skip Indiana, Michigan and Canada, but I don't know. I really wanted to do that part of the trip.

Corey found out recently that he (which automatically means "we") are going to Dubai in February. Corey's going there for a conference. I am going for no other reason but to be a tourist. We are staying here, so I am sure that will be a crazy experience! We can't wait. Our plans to go to Europe this spring fizzled, so this will allow us to go somewhere really amazing. I do hope to be able to see some of the not-so-new parts of the city.

All of this daydreaming of travel sure beats my reality. I guess it is time to get back to doing some laundry, picking up the house and going to bed at 9:00 PM the way I usually do!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Gift

I can't really complain about my Mother's Day. It was trumped by my husband's 40th birthday, but I was totally fine with that. While I had a busy morning, I did enjoy naptime by watching several episodes of Clean House, one of my all-time favorite shows.

I received a gift from Ella. It is a cookbook that was made by her kindergarten teacher. All of the mothers had been asked to submit their child's favorite recipe. Then the teacher asked each child to describe how his or her mother prepares the recipe. The book is adorable, but I LOVE the intro:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to reapply some icing. Ella will be home soon.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Earlier this week, the girls were in the bathtub and I was desperately cleaning house in preparation for my aunt and uncle to arrive. Corey was out of town, so I was running around like a lunatic. I was tuning out the shrieking--what do I care? They're in the tub!

Note to self--never tune out shrieking. When one tunes out shrieking, one is also tuning out any ACTIONS taking place, such as footsteps, water running, and on and on.

I came upstairs and saw a bare bottom race past me. Said bare bottom leaped into the bathtub. There was water EVERYWHERE. The bare bottom belonged to Ella. Ella knows better. When I asked her (more like screamed) why on earth she was running around and getting the entire bathroom wet instead of , well, bathing, she said that Genna told her to do it. Genna, the four- year-old, told Ella the six-year-old to run back and forth to the sink, fill buckets of water and THROW them on Genna. Because Genna told her to.

This sort of thing happens Genna calls the shots. Ella knows that Genna's ideas are not good ones, but she is compelled to follow Genna's lead. Ella does Genna's bidding. It's going to be a big problem in a few years.

After yelling at both of them, I singled Ella out and told her that as the older sister, she KNOWS better than to listen to ANY of Genna's ideas because they always turn out poorly. Looking back, that was a really rude thing to say. But I did. Sue me. I then shut the bathroom door and sat on the toilet to calm down while they stood outside.

There was a knock at the door.

"Mommy?" Ella sniffed. "I have to tell you something. Sometimes I get these really bad ideas in my head and I am not doing a good job of ignoring them. I am so sorry and I promise I won't listen to my bad ideas or ANY of Genna's ideas anymore."

And then Ella spoke to Genna:

"Genna, you need to stop having bad ideas in your head. When you get them, shake your head so they will go away. If they don't go away, do NOT say the ideas out loud to me. I don't want to hear them. You keep getting me in trouble."

Then Genna spoke up:

"Hey Ella--let's stand on the train table and spin around and around and get really dizzy."